One of the best ways to avoid shrinking clothes in the wash is by checking the label of the garments. For more tips on avoiding this laundry disaster, keep reading.
Doing laundry might seem like an easy, mundane task, but the truth is, it’s all too easy to make a mistake that can cost you your favorite piece of clothing. Chances are, you’ve probably put a shirt or sweater in the wash only to remove it and find out it’s two or three sizes too small.
Shrinking clothes in the wash is a preventable mistake and one that can even be fixed. Learn why clothes shrink in the wash, how you can keep them from shrinking and what to do if you’ve accidentally ruined your favorite sweater.
Why do clothes shrink in the washer and dryer?
There are several reasons why your clothes might shrink in the wash. These include fiber content, excess moisture, and heat and agitation.
- Fiber content – Certain natural fibers, such as wool and cotton, are more likely to shrink than others. Wool fibers are covered in scales, and when these scales come into contact with heat and moisture, they mesh together, causing fabrics to shrink. This is known as felting shrinkage. Additionally, cotton and wool can both absorb quite a bit of water, which can also lead to shrinking.
- Excess moisture – Natural fibers like cotton, linen and silk can also be prone to a condition known as relaxation shrinkage. This happens when these absorbent fibers are exposed to water, which causes the fibers to swell and the overall size of the garment to decrease.
- Heat and agitation – Sometimes, the combination of hot water and the agitation from the washer and dryer can cause consolidation shrinkage. These conditions cause fibers, which are tightly woven and stretched out during the manufacturing process, to release this tension and return to their natural, smaller and shorter shape.
How to keep clothes from shrinking
While it’s easy to accidentally shrink your clothes in the laundry, you can avoid this blunder by following a few simple tips. Before you throw your next load of clothes into the washer, keep the following in mind:
- Check your labels – Garment labels contain two critical pieces of information: fiber type and care instructions. You should always read labels before washing your clothes to ensure proper care and prevent stretching. Also, pay special attention to the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying, such as hand washing, dry cleaning and line drying.
- Use the right water temperature – Hot water can relax the tension in fibers and lead to shrinking. Fabrics made of cotton or wool should generally be washed in cold water. Some clothing made of these fibers is “preshrunk” and less likely to shrink further with additional washings.
- Avoid over-drying – Exposing clothes to too much heat in the dryer can also lead to shrinking. This is another reason to check your labels. Some clothes can go through the drying cycle on low heat, and some should be air dried to maintain their size and shape. Additionally, you should avoid running your clothes through more than one dryer cycle if possible.
How to unshrink clothes
If you’ve accidentally shrunk your favorite piece of clothing, don’t despair, It’s possible to reverse the damage with a simple little trick.
Fill up a sink or tub with lukewarm water and add a capful of baby shampoo. Place your garment into the water and allow it to soak for about five minutes. This process relaxes the fibers in the clothing.
Next, gently squeeze the clothing to remove water, but do not rinse it. Roll the garment up in a towel to absorb any additional moisture. Finally, get a fresh towel and lay the garment out on it. Reshape it to its original dimensions and allow it to air dry.
Help keep your washer and dryer in top shape
Of course, part of avoiding laundry mishaps is ensuring that your washer and dryer are in top working order. Remember, they’re appliances, and they need proper care and maintenance.
American Home Shield® offers home warranty plans with washing machine and dryer coverage to help you extend the life of your appliances. Coverage includes repairs and replacements up to $3,000, and we have a variety of plans designed to meet your needs. Get a quote today.
AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.